Political News

Biden again avoids questions on classified documents special counsel

US President Joe Biden Departure
Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday again avoided questions about an investigation into documents marked classified found at his home and office, six days after a special counsel was named to investigate the matter.

Biden had no public events planned for Wednesday, after spending the holiday weekend at his Delaware home, out of the public eye, and not responding to reporters’ shouted questions during unrelated events Tuesday and late last week.

The president has not yet offered a public reaction since Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed Robert Hur to investigate the potential mishandling of classified documents.

As it works to contain the political fallout, the White House has referred numerous questions to the Justice Department, saying it did not want to interfere with an ongoing investigation.

But the Justice Department has not said publicly if it has asked or advised the White House to refrain from commenting during its investigation, which it launched in November shortly after documents were first found.

And at a news conference Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco declined to comment when asked by ABC News at a news conference whether the department had told the White House it cannot discuss details surrounding the documents.

The White House has said it is cooperating with Hur – as it said it had with the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation – and the White House counsel’s office has disclosed some information in a series of written statements. Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, also released a statement over the weekend explaining how the search process had worked.

But the White House has also left some key questions unanswered, including about the nature of the documents found and why it did not inform the public sooner.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and a spokesperson for the White House counsel’s office, Ian Sams, have repeatedly referred reporters’ questions to the Justice Department, which itself has not shared much information.

“When it comes to the Department of Justice, when it comes to legal matters, when it comes to legal issues, we have been very clear that we are not going to comment, we are not going to politically interfere,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at a briefing Tuesday. “And that continues with this, also — this legal issue.”

The president himself has addressed the topic just twice since a news report on Jan. 9 made public the fact that documents marked classified had been found at an office he used after he left the vice presidency.

Biden answered one question about the matter the next day. Then, after the White House disclosed more documents had been found, on Thursday he responded to a reporter who asked about that new batch.

On Tuesday, face-to-face with reporters at an Oval Office meeting with the prime minister of the Netherlands, Biden appeared to smile as a reporter shouted whether he would commit to speaking with the special counsel. But he did not otherwise respond.

Meanwhile, the National Archives has told the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee that before the Archives can turn over records to the panel that the Justice Department needs to consult with the newly appointed special counsel “to assess whether information can be released without interfering” in the investigation into classified documents discovered at the Penn Biden Center and at Biden’s Wilmington home.

Acting Archivist Debra Wall said in a letter to Rep. James Comer that a search had begun for the information the committee requested relating to the Biden documents and advised the Archives would need to consult with DOJ on the release of any such records.

ABC News’ Alexander Mallin, Katherine Faulders, Will Steakin and Luaren Peller contributed to this report.

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